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What's the difference between XF's internal, external data directories?

As part of an add-on that I'm building, users need to be able to upload images for temporary storage, and admins need to be able to upload images for long-term storage. I currently store the user uploads in a subfolder in the external data directory, but I don't know whether to use the external or internal data directory for the admin uploads.

What exactly are the differences between the external and internal directories, and when would I use the internal one? :\